Individual differences in drivers’ cognitive processing of road safety messages

Kaye, Sherrie-Anne, White, Melanie J., & Lewis, Ioni M. (2013) Individual differences in drivers’ cognitive processing of road safety messages. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 50, pp. 272-281.

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Using Gray and McNaughton’s (2000) revised Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory (r-RST), we examined the influence of personality on processing of words presented in gain-framed and loss-framed anti-speeding messages and how the processing biases associated with personality influenced message acceptance. The r-RST predicts that the nervous system regulates personality and that behaviour is dependent upon the activation of the Behavioural Activation System (BAS), activated by reward cues and the Fight-Flight-Freeze System (FFFS), activated by punishment cues. According to r-RST, individuals differ in the sensitivities of their BAS and FFFS (i.e., weak to strong), which in turn leads to stable patterns of behaviour in the presence of rewards and punishments, respectively. It was hypothesised that individual differences in personality (i.e., strength of the BAS and the FFFS) would influence the degree of both message processing (as measured by reaction time to previously viewed message words) and message acceptance (measured three ways by perceived message effectiveness, behavioural intentions, and attitudes). Specifically, it was anticipated that, individuals with a stronger BAS would process the words presented in the gain-frame messages faster than those with a weaker BAS and individuals with a stronger FFFS would process the words presented in the loss-frame messages faster than those with a weaker FFFS. Further, it was expected that greater processing (faster reaction times) would be associated with greater acceptance for that message. Driver licence holding students (N = 108) were recruited to view one of four anti-speeding messages (i.e., social gain-frame, social loss-frame, physical gain-frame, and physical loss-frame). A computerised lexical decision task assessed participants’ subsequent reaction times to message words, as an indicator of the extent of processing of the previously viewed message. Self-report measures assessed personality and the three message acceptance measures. As predicted, the degree of initial processing of the content of the social gain-framed message mediated the relationship between the reward sensitive trait and message effectiveness. Initial processing of the physical loss-framed message partially mediated the relationship between the punishment sensitive trait and both message effectiveness and behavioural intention ratings. These results show that reward sensitivity and punishment sensitivity traits influence cognitive processing of gain-framed and loss-framed message content, respectively, and subsequently, message effectiveness and behavioural intention ratings. Specifically, a range of road safety messages (i.e., gain-frame and loss-frame messages) could be designed which align with the processing biases associated with personality and which would target those individuals who are sensitive to rewards and those who are sensitive to punishments.

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ID Code: 50050
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory, cognitive processing, message acceptance, message framing, road safety, speeding behaviour
DOI: 10.1016/j.aap.2012.04.018
ISSN: 0001-4575
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety - Qld (CARRS-Q)
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 Elsevier
Copyright Statement: This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in <Accident Analysis and Prevention>. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Accident Analysis and Prevention, [Volume 50 (2013)] DOI: 10.1016/j.aap.2012.04.018
Deposited On: 02 May 2012 22:46
Last Modified: 22 May 2017 23:52

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